Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is elective outpatient type of refractive surgery that uses lasers to correct vision defects while at the same time eliminating dependency on glasses or contact lenses. It is used to correct common vision problems such as myopia (short-sightedness), hypermetropia (long-sightedness) and astigmatism (unequal curvature on the surface of the eye). In PRK surgery, the eye surgeon uses an excimer laser to reshape the patients’ eye curvature. However, PRK shouldn’t be confused with LASIK as they differ greatly; whilst the surgeon creates a flap in LASIK, in PRK eye surgery a flap is not created. PRK is ideal for patients with thinner corneas, or those with vocational and sports-related constraints where cornea flaps are contraindicated. By reshaping the cornea, the surgeon is able to restore and/or improve normal eyesight.
If you are looking for an eye defect correction procedure that will eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses, then PRK eye surgery is ideal for you. Due to various reasons, maybe aesthetic or occupational constraints such as sports, some people find it hard to use glasses and put on contacts. In such cases, PRK comes in handy, as it seeks to restore and/or improve normal vision permanently. Although considered the predecessor to popular LASIK procedure, PRK is still widely used as it is cheaper and recommendable for some patients.
You can see how it compares to other treatment types in our guide: SMILE vs LASIK vs LASIK/PRK treatments.
All laser vision surgeries work by changing the shape of the cornea, or by clearing the front surface of the eye, making it possible for light to travel through it properly. By allowing sufficient light to travel into the inner eye, clear focusing of images at the back of the eye becomes possible. This vision correction procedure is highly accurate in many cases of myopia (nearsightedness), guaranteeing the patients 20:20 vision in the absence of glasses or contacts one year after surgery.
Prices of the PRK laser surgery vary greatly depending on the private clinic of your choice, since it is not covered by NHS. Even with the price disparities, the price ranges between £600 and £100 per eye, although you still have other options worth considering such as seeking treatment abroad where it can be up to 35% cheaper. However, as you consider having PRK surgery done overseas, bear in mind the increased chances of complication as compared to UK clinics that are considered safer due to existing regulations.
Understand that you only have one set of eyes and you need to ensure the risks of complications are reduced by choosing reputable clinics.
You can compare PRK costs to other types of laser eye surgery, in our guide to laser eye surgery prices in the UK.
PRK procedure doesn’t involve scalpels and incisions, but rather a calibrated laser alongside anaesthetic drops applied to numb the eye. Prior to the surgery, an extremely detailed map of your eye surface is illustrated on a computer, and the eye surgeon uses it to calibrate the excimer laser for exact prescription. Once calibrated accordingly, the technician will place an eyelid opener in your eye to keep it open throughout the entire procedure. To achieve the expected shape, the surgeon first removes the cornea’s surface layer (epithelium); but it is regenerated within 2-5 days. Your PRK surgeon will then smoothen the eye area and then apply computer controlled pulses of laser light, which will reshape the curvature of your eye. Cells in the deeper parts of the eye remain virtually untouched.
After the PRK correction procedure, your eye may experience slight irritation or the feel of a foreign body after a few days, but the discomfort can be managed effectively with medication. Your surgeon will prescribe eye drops to be used for several months following the procedure. Usually, patients are placed on post-operative antibiotic drops, along with anti-inflammatory agents for enhanced comfort and reduced swelling. Once the epithelium is completely healed, the doctor can remove the bandage contact lens, usually on the second or third-operative day. Patients can use steroid anti-inflammatory drops for over a period of two months to facilitate complete healing.